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Cablegate: Initial Reaction to 2006 Irf Report

VZCZCXRO4873
PP RUEHDBU RUEHLN RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHMO #1024 2721400
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 291400Z SEP 06
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3268
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS MOSCOW 011024

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL KDEM RS
SUBJECT: INITIAL REACTION TO 2006 IRF REPORT


1. (U) Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesman Mikhail Kaminin
told reporters that the 2006 International Religious Freedom
Report amounted to a repetition of groundless claims that
there are restrictions on religious freedom in Russia. He
said that U.S. officials had repeatedly ignored GOR
explanations to the point that the GOR considered further
explanations superfluous. Kaminin alleged that the report
was politically motivated.

2. (U) Noting some improvements in this year's edition, the
Moscow Patriarchate remarked that the report still lacked
objectivity. In an Interfax interview on September 25,
Deputy Head of the Department of External Church Relations of
the Moscow Patriarchate Vsevolod Chaplin remarked that "in
comparison to previous years, the report of the State
Department was more accurate in terms of facts and
assessments." He also noted that it was a pleasant surprise
that the report finally mentioned some anti-Orthodox acts of
vandalism, but that the number of those incidents was
insignificant in comparison to the description of acts
directed against religions that have large and influential
constituencies in the U.S., such as Catholic, Jewish,
Protestant, and "new religious movements." He added that
while the report addressed the property restitution problems
of the Russian Orthodox Church, they were disproportionate to
the restitution problems of other religious communities. He
even admitted that the report was correct in noting the need
for improvements in conditions for Muslims' prayer activities
and access to religious advisors in the army.

3. (U) Chaplin argued that Russia is only asserting what is
the norm in Europe: "a society's selective attitude towards
religious communities." He said that in most European
countries both state and society have always understood that
some religious organizations have grounds for special
support, while others "could be considered destructive and
dangerous, based on their activities and ideology." Chaplin
also maintained that local populations have the right to
decide which religious buildings could be built in their
districts and to whom local authorities can grant community
space for religious meetings, as well as the right of
citizens to a religious education and the right to protest
against the activities of certain religious groups they
considered sects.

4. (SBU) COMMENT. The tone of the MFA's response to the 2006
report does not differ markedly from its response last year.
We are still waiting for the translation of the report into
Russian to be finished. We will then review it with
additional interlocutors in the GOR and human rights and
religious communities.
BURNS

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